Coyote meeting seeks to educate and guage opinions

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(Host) Friends and foes of the Eastern Coyote are expected to turn out tonight for a public meeting held by the Fish and Wildlife Department.

VPR’s Steve Zind has this preview.

(Zind) For an animal that stays well hidden in Vermont’s woods, the coyote has attracted a lot of attention. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, some hunters are concerned that the predators are killing too many deer.

Secondly, annual coyote hunting tournaments have sparked protests from those who call them inhumane.

One purpose of tonight’s meeting is to educate people about the coyote. Another is to give the Fish and Wildlife Department a chance to gauge public opinion about the state’s coyote population and about the controversial hunting tournaments with an eye toward new regulations.

Here are some basic coyote facts:

The Eastern Coyote is larger than its western cousin because it’s interbred with wolves in Canada.

There are anywhere from 4,500 – 8,000 coyotes in Vermont.

The coyote first arrived in Vermont in the 1940s. It’s a very adaptable animal that can thrive in different habitats on a wide-ranging diet.

Kimberly Royar is a Fish and Wildlife Department biologist. She says the coyote’s diet does include deer.

(Royar) “We know that they take deer in the winter and we also know that they kill fauns in the springtime but we don’t believe that coyotes actually limit deer numbers in Vermont.”

(Zind) Typically animal populations like deer, turkey, moose and bear are controlled through hunting. But Royar says the coyote presents an unusual challenge.

(Royar) “They often will respond to exploitation by increasing their reproductive rates so that if they’re heavily hunted they’ll actually produce more young and survival is higher. So sometimes heavy hunting pressure can actually stimulate reproductions and increase the number of coyotes on the lampscape, so it’s quite difficult to regulate.”

(Zind) Royar says it appears that the number of coyotes in Vermont has leveled off as a result of food supply and habitat and its unlikely any management efforts by the Fish and Wildlife Department will change coyote numbers dramatically.

She says for that reason the controversy over coyote hunting tournaments is more of a social question than a wildlife management issue.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

Note: The public meeting will take place tonight from 7 to 9 at the Judd Hall Gym on the Vermont Technical College Campus in Randolph Center.

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